How to Talk to Your Kids about Trafficking
My daughter is 2 years old. She currently loves all things Minnie Mouse. Her favorite outfit is a pretty dress with a striped sweater over it. It doesn’t match - at all - but she loves it so much. She is so full of joy - you can see it when she twirls around and sings and dances without a care in the world.
I can’t imagine the day when she is not so innocent.
As a mom, the thought and reality of human trafficking is heartbreaking. Somebody’s son or daughter was lied to and forced to work long hours with little pay or give their bodies to strangers. It is sickening that children lose their innocence because somebody thinks exploiting them is okay when it comes to making a buck.
Just like the day will come when I have to tell my daughter about the birds and the bees, there will also come a day when she will need to be made aware of the realities of human trafficking.
Because awareness is the first step to a solution. Knowing the signs of trafficking may equip your child to spot something at school or at the mall and say something. It could also protect your child from being taken advantage of.
Starting a conversation with your child about human trafficking can seem intimidating. How do you even bring this up? One way is to use the Dressember Campaign - share with your child why you’re participating and invite them to join! Make it a family effort! Or, maybe they are learning about slavery in school. You can springboard off of that by letting your child know that even though it is now illegal in the United States, slavery does still exist today.
Before talking to your child about human trafficking, you should first know as much as you can! It’s hard to talk about something you don’t know much about, and learning about an issue shows your child that you care.
As children tend to do, yours will likely ask questions. They may question why this happens? Who would intentionally do something like this? These are hard questions that you may not have an answer to. Remember this, parents, you don't have to have all the answers. You may need to explain how the people who buy and sell humans don’t see them as people - they see them as objects or commodities. Dehumanization is often part of slavery because it’s easy to treat an object poorly.
Make sure your child knows the signs of human trafficking. Someone being trafficked may be confused about their surroundings, act fearful or anxious, work excessively long hours, or has inconsistencies in their story. Children who are in the foster care system, impoverished, abused, or homeless are at an increased risk of being trafficking. Your child should also be aware of the tactics used by traffickers to “recruit” - promises of a better future, a great job opportunity, etc.,
Educate your children about how to protect themselves by letting them know about internet safety (not sharing personal information online, only accepting friend requests from people they personally know), warning them against meeting someone they met online without consulting a trusted adult, and creating a list of trusted adults they can talk to if they or a friend are in trouble. This list may include favorite teachers, the school counselor, a pastor, family friend, or relative.
Because this can be a very discouraging conversation, it’s important to share the initiatives that are helping bring hope and freedom to victims of human trafficking. Tell them about Dressember, about A21, IJM, McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, and so many more.
While human trafficking is a huge issue, and it can seem overwhelming, let your child know that they are not powerless. Equip them with knowledge about how they can help, whether that is reporting suspicious activity to the trafficking hotline or being an advocate by participating in Dressember and raising awareness among their peers.
Teach your child that they have a voice and it matters. Raise them up knowing they may only be one person, but they can do something to bring freedom for all.
I firmly believe the children we are raising today are going to change the world. I am amazed at how brave our children can be. Educating them about issues like human trafficking and equipping them with the tools they need to advocate for the powerless not only protects them, but will help them help others. These hard conversations are necessary because our children are the future.
Let’s help make it one of freedom, for all.
About the Author
Austyn McAnarney is a wife and mom living in Springfield, Missouri. She is studying literature and creative writing at Missouri State University. In her free time, Austyn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and their dog, Axle.